Borussia Mönchengladbach. Die Fohlen, mostly known to BVB fans as one of those clubs you hope can take points away from Bayern. Last season, Mönchengladbach broke into the top ranks of the Bundesliga for a bit, keeping pace with Bayern and Borussia Dortmund before suffering a catastrophic collapse that saw them win three of their final fourteen matches. With the arrival of a new manager and several new signings, the future for Gladbach is bright but unclear. This could be a groundbreaking year for the Foals, or it could see them fall further behind the Bundesliga’s top clubs.
Bundesliga: 5th Place (16-7-11)
DFB-Pokal: Second Round (5-0 vs Bayer Leverkusen)... oof.
In many ways, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 2018/19 season mirrored that of Borussia Dortmund. The Foals got off to a torrid start in the Bundesliga, going 10-3-4 in the Hinrunde. This included a string of impressive victories, including a 3-0 victory against Bayern at the Allianz Arena. They managed to keep pace with Bayern and BVB throughout the first half, leading some to call the title race a three-way race rather than a two-way race. It really looked that way at the time. Alassane Pléa, the newly arrived striker from OGC Nice, was scoring at an unbelievable rate, and Thorgan Hazard was playing out of his mind, enough to earn him the highest overall Whoscored.com ranking in the entire league. The Foals’ success was also driven by a solid back line, especially its center back pairing of Nico Elvedi and Matthias Ginter (remember him?).
Much like BVB, Mönchengladbach suffered a second-half collapse: theirs arguably even worse. After winning their first three matches of the Rückrunde, Mönchengladbach went 3-4-7 in their final 14 matches. Alassane Pléa’s production fell off a cliff, and Thorgan Hazard seemed a shell of his first-half. There was a variety of reasons for this, some of which I discussed in this post on Thorgan Hazard’s production. Long story short, it was a combination of poor tactics from Dieter Hecking, poor finishing, a lack of depth, and discontent within the locker room. Over the course of one half of a season, Mönchengladbach went from locks for the Champions League to simply battling for a Europa League spot. The Foals managed to cling on to 5th place, but the damage was done. Dieter Hecking agreed to step down soon after the season ended.
Stefan Lainer - €12 Million
Breel Embolo - €10 Million
Marcus Thuram - €9 Million
Ramy Bensebaini - €8 Million
Max Grün - Unknown
Thorgan Hazard - €25.5 Million
Josip Drmic - Free
Moritz Nicolas - Loan
Losing Thorgan Hazard, especially for such a reasonable fee, undoubtedly hurts Mönchengladbach. He was one of the biggest drivers of their success during the first half of their season, and as a 26-year-old, still has several more years of his prime remaining. To Gladbach’s credit, though, they did make a few nice purchases to help replace him. Breel Embolo has been touted for years as a decent prospect, and proved last season that he could score somewhat regularly in limited minutes for a truly putrid Schalke squad.
Stefan Lainer had a decent record as a right back with RB Salzburg of the Austrian Bundesliga. Marcus Thuram is another youngster with potential. He’s only 22 years old, and scored nine goals in 32 appearances for Guincamp in Ligue 1.
Most importantly, though, is that aside from Hazard, Mönchengladbach managed to hold on to most of their young core. Florian Neuhaus and Denis Zakaria are a pair of midfielders entering their prime, and Gladbach have a slew of depth options to build around them, including Christoph Kramer and Jonas Hoffman.
Finally, the addition that might help Mönchengladbach the most isn’t a player at all, but a manager. Marco Rose, who has risen to fame leading RB Salzburg to unexpected success in Europe and dominance in the Austrian Bundesliga. Marco Rose has been a prize target among Bundesliga clubs for a long time. He’s earned high praise from Jürgen Klopp. From the research that I’ve done, if I could describe his playing style in one word, it would be “Fluid”. He likes to use a variety of formations: usually some sort of 4-4-2 in possession with a diamond in midfield, and a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders on defense.
What to Expect This Season
Borussia Mönchengladbach mostly project to be an above-average Bundesliga side. It’s not as likely that they’ll end up in the title chase this season as it was last season. They’re not only going to face improved primary opponents in BVB and Bayern Munich, but also competition for the top-four from RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Bayer Leverkusen. This is one of the deepest and most talented Bundesliga cores that we’ve seen in recent years, and there may or may not be room for Borussia Mönchengladbach to make it into the top four.
I really like Borussia Mönchengladbach, so I do want them to succeed, but it’s hard to see a top four with anybody other than BVB, Bayern, Leverkusen, and RB Leipzig. I think that it will be difficult for Borussia Mönchengladbach to replace any of those teams, but I don’t think they’ll have any trouble reaching the Europa League.
Prediction: 5th Place